By Safiya Hopfe
VANCOUVER — Salem, Oregon’s favourite collective of orchestral indie rock, Typhoon, has seen growing acclaim since releasing White Lighter in 2013, but frontman Kyle Morton recently chose to take a step back from his band in the interest of trying something new.
In his words, “Typhoon projects always take a really long time and they’re always agonizingly slow. So I wanted to do something sort of fun and easy and labour-less.” Morton wanted something that would allow him to take a breather and make use of a pile of songs that had accumulated over the years, behind closed doors while the creative process of his 18-piece ensemble absorbed all recording efforts and creative focus.
The result is What Will Destroy You, an instrumentally minimal and altogether intimate solo record that grapples with love, loss, and the apocalypse, coherently and holistically despite the aura of spontaneity and coincidence with which all of the songs actually came together. As it turns out, the overarching theme— “exploring love as either the thing that will destroy you or that will save you”— came after the making of the record itself, leading naturally to the title What Will Destroy You.
Simply put, though, it’s no concept album. Morton highlights how little of it was premeditated and explains that most of the songs were written “off-the-cuff.” “I had the songs in the bag before we even started, they were songs I had written almost by accident.” He continues to explain that the process took around a month in its entirety. “I recorded it with my old friend in Long Island, an engineer who worked on all the Typhoon records, and we just recorded it in that, I would just drop by his house a couple nights a week and we finished it in about a month. With Typhoon, I keep using the word laboured but it’s belaboured almost.”
The painstaking diligence Morton attributes to Typhoon’s artistic process is unsurprising, considering the sheer grandeur reflected both by the ensemble’s size and the abstraction of the ideas they work to unravel. Desire, death, and attraction are but a few examples of the “philosophical concepts” the band has tackled, and that he himself tends to gravitate toward no matter what he is thinking or writing about. But the reality of concept albums is that they don’t always materialize organically. “When you try to force something it will sound sort of strained, and definitely when I listen to our last Typhoon record, White Lighter, which is the record I’m really proud of and something I really like, there’s this feeling of pressure and strain. I mean for one, we played all the songs so fast on the record, I don’t know what we were thinking. Like god it sounds like we’re on amphetamines or something.”
Ironically enough, it’s been busier since the record’s release than during the making of it. Kyle Morton is touring solo for the first time, though he’s always had a pretty good time performing by himself at shows here and there in Oregon. He refers to the “clown-size shoes” he has to fill in the absence of his many bandmates, and in addition to working a day-job explains that every spare minute has been spent recording Typhoon’s new record. He isn’t shying away from any of it though. He calls the world of making music “a dog-eat-dog world” but he doesn’t intend to back out. “It seems to be pathological. I don’t know if I can stop now.”
Kyle Morton performs on January 9 at the Rickshaw Theatre.BC, British Columbia, Kyle Morton, Rickshaw Theatre